Since Canadian Theresa Evanoff arrived in Singapore 13 years ago on an MBA exchange programme. Fast forward a few years and she has married Darryl, and they have had three boys, Aidan (4), Jonah (3) and Brendan (2). Now, after many years in the corporate world, she’s changing her line of work. Theresa has started up a social enterprise, Gift-It-Forward, aimed at streamlining the process of buying gifts for parties, and, in the process, benefitting local Singapore charities. She talks to us about her new venture.
What inspired you to start Gift-It-Forward?
As a mother of three young kids, I go to a lot of birthday parties! I started the business because I thought it would meet a real life need to teach our children about generosity through giving to charity, while also eliminating toy clutter and simplifying party planning.
I wanted to find a way to teach my kids that giving is just as important as getting, to help them appreciate getting just one or two gifts, and also to educate them about giving back. I hope that by supporting young kids to be socially aware, they will grow into socially responsible adults who can make an impact on their community and their world.
How difficult was it setting up the business?
Coming from the corporate world’s big budgets and many resources, it was a challenge starting this up by myself. While I was determined to get it off the ground, it did take me some time to find and hire a developer, engage a website designer, understand and address legal and regulatory issues, and conduct marketing – all the functions a big company has at its fingertips. There are still days when I struggle to work on my own (and would love a partner!), but knowing that this can make a real difference to individuals, families and charities keeps me motivated when things get tough.
Singapore is a great place for entrepreneurs. It’s fairly straightforward to register a business, and there are many resources available for start-ups, from communities like The Impact Hub to co-working spaces like Trehaus, business centres like DP Bureau, who help to do all the business administration, and start-up accelerators whose role it is to help start-ups succeed. It’s been an interesting journey so far, and I’d definitely encourage anyone who is on the fence about starting a business to go ahead and do it, as there is a great support system in Singapore.
What is Gift-It-Forward and how does it work?
It’s an online invitation platform that helps you plan parties with a charitable twist. It aims to create more meaningful gifts and teach children about generosity, while simplifying the event planning and the overall gift-giving experience for parents. This service will help you get the gift the child really wants and support a charity from one of the listed partners at the same time. Instead of guests bringing gifts to your party, they can donate through the site; their contributions are pooled and then split between your dream gift and your chosen charity.
You send your invitations through Gift-It-Forward, and you can hold your party anywhere you like. As for the gift, we encourage parents to have it ready at the party, so guests can see what their donations have contributed towards. Also, at the end of the day, the birthday boy or girl can print out a personalised superstar certificate to hang up in their room for the coming year.
Why these particular charities?
I wanted a broad range of causes that would resonate with children. Our nine partner charities represent diverse social issues, such as children’s homes (Canossaville Children’s Home), terminally ill children (Make-A-Wish Foundation), single mums (Babes and Dayspring), migrant workers (HOME), rehabilitated criminals (Highpoint), art therapy for the disabled (Very Special Arts) and animal protection (Save Our Street Dogs and the SPCA). Also, while there are many worthwhile charities in the region, I wanted to give back to the community that I have been a part of for over a decade. Often, people want to give back to the local community but are not sure how. For this reason, our partner charities are all Singapore-based. Many of them are small charities that don’t have the big marketing budgets to build as much awareness as they’d like, so I hope that partnering with us will help them get the word out about the wonderful work they do.
What do you hope to gain from this?
Personally, I hope that other people will believe in this concept as much as I do, so as to help make it a viable business, and that it will give me the flexibility to plan my working hours around my kids’ schedules.
Altruistically, I have met so many charities and been humbled by the amazing work that they do. I hope that by partnering with them, we can help them raise awareness and funds to continue their work. For families and children, I genuinely hope that we can teach kids the true meaning of sharing, help them know how lucky they are, and show them that they can start making a difference no matter what age they are!
What kind of interest have you seen so far?
The business started off with friends using the site, but we’re now seeing it grow with new users. The great thing about having a Gift-It-Forward party is that all party guests can be potential customers, so it can grow virally. It can also be used for any occasion, from an adult “I hope that by teaching young kids to be socially aware, they’ll grow into socially responsible adults who make an impact on their community and the world” birthday party or a housewarming to a baby shower or wedding. Our invitation designs cater for all types of events.
We love Din Tai Fung, and also Coastes on Sentosa.
Phuket because we love Thai food and beaches in general, and it’s a short flight away.
Rainy day activity:
Trampoline parks are always a great hit with our active kids. Bounce at Orchard Cineleisure is great because it has “Junior Jumper” hours for the little ones, and we also love Amped because it’s so close to home!
As a social enterprise, Gift-It-Forward is always on the lookout for volunteers. If you have some time or a skill to share, contact firstname.lastname@example.org. Charity partners can also get in touch via email, or go to gift-it-forward.com for more information.
BY AMY BROOK-PARTRIDGE
PHOTOGRAPHY BY MICHAEL BERNABE
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